Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Me time

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The girls are down - one in her room, the other in mine - for their nap. After a hectic morning that involved breakfast with a guest at our place and a birthday party at the Exploritorium, they’re ready to crash. Actually, I am ready to crash. And I try.

With every room in the house taken - My Guy is in his office, also our third bedroom, catching up on some work - I am left with the couch in our living room. I tuck myself under a pile of throw blankets and prepare to rest.

But Kayli, my ginger cat, immediately begins her afternoon ritual of aggressively meowing and purring, clawing for attention while the girls are in their respective spots, safely kept away from her. She’s the scaredy cat that never comes out while they’re up, so this is her chance.

Despite multiple attempts to push her away, she comes back, adamant for some love. Exhausted myself, I am not feeling particularly generous with my affection. I just want a nap. I keep thwarting her attempts, and just when I think I’m finally getting through to her, my other cat, Macavity, jumps on the couch to watch me. He’s a snuggler, and he’s eyeing a spot for himself. 

Frickin’ cats.

I don’t nap well with things that move, so I try to shoo him off as well. By this time, my lethargy is giving way to irritation, and I’m starting to get worked up. When I finally have the cats under control, I settle back in and try to breathe evenly, hoping to erase my agitation from the last few minutes. It almost goes back to normal before I hear Little Miss calling for me from my bedroom, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

Exasperated, I attend to her: “What?” I say, with a little more annoyance in my voice than I intended. I find her in my bathroom.

“Can you wipe me please? I pooped.”
“What? You wipe yourself all the time. Why are you calling me now?” At this point, there’s no hiding my displeasure.
“I did, but the toilet paper got stuck to my butt.”
“Are you kidding me?” She isn’t. I start to look for hidden cameras from some stupid prank show because real life can’t be this ridiculous. Seriously.

After handling the situation and pleading with my four-year-old to just give me an hour of peace, I go back to my couch only to find a cat in my spot!

Then I hear Thumper fussing on the monitor. She has been doing that at naptime for the past couple of weeks before settling herself back down for the rest of her nap. Even when I know this ends in two minutes, it is still impossible for me to relax and fall asleep with a crying baby blaring from the monitor.

Frickin’ kids.

I give up. This nap is just not in the cards for me. It feels like everyone wants something from me, and I just don’t have it in me, at least not right then, to share. In that state of fatigue, I barely have enough of me for myself!

Then I choose to do something that seems counterintuitive for someone so desperately in need of a break: I dress myself and get out the door. The sun is shining, the temperature’s just above freezing, and the sidewalks are clear from ice or snow. It is the perfect time to run.

The moment the sun hit my face, I know I made the right decision. I feel my frustrations vanish with each step, and by mile two, it feels pretty fantastic.  

This is my time. Finally.

I don’t have to share. I don’t have to make room. I am neither needed nor feel the need to be. I am free to follow my feet as I please. I am free to push myself as hard as I can. I listen only to my body, which, at this moment, is telling me to go, go, go. And I do, with pleasure and gratitude.

I feel myself recharging with each breath. This is where I find my strength and my peace. This is where I go to get back to center. The crumbled, unraveled parts of my exhausted self realign and form a whole again. Unlike napping, I can’t close my eyes to rest when I’m running, but I’m rejuvenated all the same. Different means, same end.

I hope to run for an hour and get back to my family, who’ll be waiting for me so we can go to the grocery store for our week’s shopping. When I see that I’m already at the halfway point between my house and the store, without breaking my stride, I call home and ask My Guy to meet me there. He doesn’t question me.

Over six miles later (the store’s only 4.5 miles from my house, but I run around the block a few times to get an hour’s worth), I’m at our destination a few minutes before they arrive. My cart is already filled with produce, meat, and the all-important chocolate milk for my post-run sustenance, as recommended by seasoned runners. I hear Thumper’s excited voice, “Mommy! Mommy!” and see her precariously dodging carts to run to me in her navy ruffled skirt. I scoop my little one into my arms and kiss her.

My Guy and Little Miss smile and wave from their cart. At my request, he purchases the half-gallon chocolate milk and hands it to me while we’re still shopping. I break the seal and chug it from the container, much to my girls’ surprise and absolute delight. (And the other shoppers’ horror, probably.)

“My turn! My turn!” they both yell, reaching for the jug in my hand, and I help them to it.

Once again, I am happy to share.


* * *

How do you find time for yourself in the middle of the day? What do you do to take a break? Where do you go to find your center?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mommy, am I going to die?

“Mommy, am I going to die?”

I froze. My quiet one-on-one time with Little Miss that afternoon suddenly became deafeningly loud. I’m not sure what prompted this question, but there it was all the same, and along with it, the shadow of dread. I knew this moment would come, but it was too soon. Way too soon. I wasn’t prepared. Although, I don’t know if I would’ve been at any other time either.

I put away the book on my lap that we were reading, took a deep breath and slowly turned to my four-year-old, wishing that in the two seconds it took me to do all of that, I would have a good answer for her. Except there is no good answer to that question is there?

I held her hopeful gaze, and responded matter-of-factly, “Yes.”

Alarm spread across her face. “But I don’t want to die!”

“I know, babe, but we all do. That’s just what happens. To all of us.” Each word fell out of my mouth with a dull, heavy thud.

She started to cry. Realizing her own mortality is one thing, but that we would all die was too much for her. Way to go, mama.

However, her next reaction surprised me: “If daddy dies and if you die, how’s Thumper going to get her milk?!”

I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. I didn’t expect her to worry about who would nurse her little sister upon our demise, but I suppose that’s just how the mind of a four-year-old works. They grasp at the things they can comprehend.

“Well, I hope that by the time we die, she will no longer need to be nursed. You know how you’re drinking cow’s milk now? Well, she’ll get there too.”

That answer seemed to satisfy her, but that was only the beginning of a barrage of questions and concerns that came my way in between fearful sobs.

“Who will drive me to places?”
“I don’t want us to not have a mommy or daddy. If you leave us, we’ll be all alone.”
“Will you make sure we have a new mommy and daddy?”

I held her and stroked her hair as I fielded her questions, my voice quivering. With each answer, she’d pull away to look at me, as if searching my face to see if it matched the answers that appeared from my mouth, making it impossible for me to say anything but the truth.

And the truth, this truth, hurts.

Because I have no fairy-tale endings for this girl, who was, at that moment, sitting next to me in her Snow White gown.

“If you kiss me, will I wake up?” she asked, and I didn’t lie.

And because I’m not religious, I couldn’t promise her a heaven - no choir of angels and cute little puppies in the ever after for us. I could only tell her what I knew.

Which wasn’t much.

I tried to quell her fears by deflecting the possibility of death to a time that’s far removed from the present, but words like “eventually” and “someday” mean so little to someone who can barely grasp the concept of next week.

As I fumbled in the dark myself to bring my sad and confused little girl some light, I realized just how ironic this was because I could scarcely escape my own anxiety when I think about losing the people I love too.

But when she finally said, “Mommy, if you die, it will break my heart,” I crumpled.

That’s when we just held each other and sobbed. I felt like so many moms would probably have said something more comforting, more intelligent, more reassuring. Just more. Instead, I only apologized to her, over and over, for not being able to give her the answers she wanted to hear.

I also cursed my luck - Why don’t these questions come up when she’s with her dad? Why do I always get the hard questions when I’m the one who’s emotionally ill-equipped? The one who cries at commercials and tears up at posters of abandoned animals.

As our tears subsided, a petty gold box caught my eye. Chocolates.  My Guy gave them to me for Valentine’s day, and I had brought them out to share with Little Miss during our quiet time together while her sister was napping. It was our little secret, and she was absolutely thrilled. Chocolate also happens to be her favorite thing in the world. But super secret chocolates? Even better.

Even though we’ve already indulged earlier, I reached for the box that had been sitting in front of us, opened it, and held it in front of her. At the sight of the little gems, her mood changed almost immediately. She gingerly picked one for herself and one for me, excited to be having another again. In the same afternoon!

Then we sat with our backs on the couch, next to each other, and savored the treat in our mouth wordlessly. When our watery gaze met, she smiled. The clouds lifted, and just like that, she was all sunshine again.

Whew!

We’ve been reading “Aesop’s Fables” to Little Miss at bedtime every day this week, so I feel like I should end with a moral, so here it is, the moral of my story today:

Mommy may not always have the answers, but she will at least have chocolate.

chocolate truffles
 
* * *

What’s your most dreaded question? Do you prepare your answers in anticipation of moments like this or do you just wing it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A night to remember, and other familiar stories

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It’s no secret – I love surprises. I get a thrill when I plan a milestone birthday surprise for My Guy or sweat the details of a simple Valentine dinner for my girls, like the one last week, when my best friend joined us for our cheese and chocolate fondue dinner. I set and adorned the table in all things hearts and pink, and when Little Miss came home from preschool, she was ecstatic to see both the table and her favorite auntie. Success! 

Then there’s the kind of surprise that appears on an ordinary day, like coming home to a delicious dinner simmering on the stove after my run one evening, a gesture by My Guy that took my breath away even more than the 6.5-mile route did.

Or when I decided on a whim to take just Little Miss with me to the Chinese New Year parade while her sister napped so we could be adventurous without worrying about taxing a toddler. Plus, a one-on-one time with my big girl is always a treat. For both of us. Little Miss got to decide on the mode of transportation - taxi, bus, or train - which made her deliriously happy, and she picked the bus there and the elevated train back.

CNYcollage


These little surprises give our routine a jolt, not unlike the plot twists in an otherwise predictable storyline. For someone who spends most of my time indoors these days, I welcome the mini adrenaline boost that comes with planning on the sly and the blip on the radar brought on by spontaneity.

But even though I love the unexpected, I appreciate the familiar too.

When my best friend, who lives eight hours away, was here last week, after reading bedtime stories to my girls in my bed, we stayed to talk while My Guy ushered the girls to their bedroom to get them down for the night. We sat up in my bed and tucked ourselves under the covers while we caught up on each other’s life with a box of my favorite chocolates between us, a Valentine surprise from My Guy. Who knew he could be so sweetly old-fashioned sometimes? Okay, maybe I did a little.

With a glass of wine in one hand and chocolates in the other, the conversation flowed freely as it always does between us. We are both book-and-food-loving home bodies on divergent paths - she, a married career woman who chose not to have kids; me, a stay-at-home mom of two - but there’s nothing we couldn’t say to one another. 

After she retired for the night, My Guy took her place in bed and our conversation went into the night. With the box of chocolates still there between us. I love being nestled in his nook, in the soft light of our bedside lamp, sharing the highlights from our day apart or looking into the crystal ball of our future together. The familiar, sometimes, can be really nice.

In fact, despite reveling in the success of a surprise Valentine evening for the girls, it was our annual Valentine date that exhilarated me. On Saturday, two days after the actual day, while our girls were in bed, we went to the Chicago Auto Show. I know, how romantic. But hey, we were holding hands!

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to cars. There’s just something really sexy about machinery that balances form and function so seamlessly, and now that I found someone whose passion dwarves mine, the Auto Show seemed like a perfectly natural setting for a Valentine celebration.


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On a night inspired by the familiar, we decided to stick with the formula and picked a place we’ve been to for cocktails and late-night dining. As we walked in, more of the familiar greeted us - they were playing an entire Vampire Weekend record, one of my favorite bands. As we ordered our drinks, My Guy surprised me by requesting another favorite album of mine, “In Rainbows” by Radiohead, to which they eagerly obliged, and when the first song came on, we were almost bouncing out of our seats, we were so giddy, not unlike high school kids who hear their song requests on the radio. (Do kids these days even do that anymore?)

Maybe it was the potent but perfectly executed cocktails. Maybe it was the delectable small plates (no-batter, fried Brussels sprouts, with the outside layers charred to a crisp, on lemon aioli, hello?!). Or maybe it’s the vibe of the place with its mysterious wine library and labyrinthian corridors. But the night felt electric.

The new and the old intertwined, stirring feelings of familiarity and comfort with the novel and exciting. It was an evening that felt simultaneously like I was out on a first date with my crush and a long-standing one with the father of my children.

Not surprisingly, we felt wonderfully energized the next day despite the late night and the early risers in our house. We couldn’t stop talking about our evening together. We still can’t.

Even though I walked wearily out of my bedroom to the usual scene of the girls in their pajamas and bed head at the dining table and their dad making coffee and French toast in the kitchen, a memory of our night together sparked a smile. The familiar can be very nice.

Especially when you get to escape it sometimes.



AdaStreet

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sweet nothings

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I am running into some serious writer’s block. This is my fifth, and hopefully last, draft of this post, which I was hoping to dedicate to my family for Valentine’s Day for obvious reasons. I think I should just throw in the towel and accept that sometimes, there are no words.

And maybe, sometimes, we don’t need any.

Like the time when my girls climbed into bed first thing in the morning and my eyes were still closed from sleep when the little one placed soft, sweet little kisses all over my face, and her sister followed suit until I opened my eyes to greet them. That alone said more than any words ever could, and my heart is still brimming with joy from that moment.

Or the time when My Guy came all the way home in between a work day full of meetings just so I could get my regular run in. Without my asking. Maybe he did it because he knows how much running means to me, or maybe he’d rather not face the cranky me when I miss it. Either way, I love that in the middle of a crazy day, he still found the time to put me first.

Or the time when I chose to forgo the pretty red paper for the Valentine hearts on our banner and went with pink and purple instead even though I’m not a fan of either. But my gesture was returned in spades just seeing the girls light up at their favorite color each time they look at the banner.

Along the same lines, tonight, despite my years of anti-Hallmark-Valentine, I have a cheesy Valentine’s Day celebration planned for my family. Literally, as there’ll be cheese and chocolate fondue, hearts, and candy, but please, don’t tell my girls. It’s a surprise.

It’s also the very least I can do, especially when words fail me, for the people who teach me everyday that when it comes to love, it’s not always what you say; it’s what you do.

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This is as Chinese as it gets

Kung Hei Fatt Choy! In case you’re wondering, that means Happy New Year in Cantonese. Growing up half Chinese, it was the biggest celebration for me, starting from an incredible spread made by my aunt on the eve for the Family Reunion Dinner to the raucous event in my own house as relatives and friends gathered to eat, drink, and gamble all day and all night.

This is also the time of year that I’m most nostalgic for my childhood and probably the most homesick as well. It has elements of everything I miss about my life back in Malaysia - my large extended family, loud and joyful celebrations, and sumptuous feasts. As much as I desperately want to share this kind of magic with my own girls, I knew I could never replicate that for my own little family of four here, so I don’t even try. At least not to that extent.

Instead of trying to capture the full essence of the celebration, I aim for the nuances. Today, to usher in the Year of the Snake, we began the morning with chocolate-chip pancakes. No, that’s not what the Chinese do. That’s just what My Guy did, because, well, he’s not exactly Chinese and that’s what we had in our pantry. We were also a little unprepared for the occasion, but that wasn’t our first “infraction”.


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I made a pan of spicy Szechwan noodles the night before for the all-important Family Reunion Dinner, when my aunt would’ve made a ten-course meal that included chicken, shrimp, pork, fish, tofu, and vegetables that were braised, steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried, and stewed. But these noodles were My Guy’s favorite, so that counts for something right?

However, I did keep with the tradition by distributing “hung pao”, red packets that contain money, to my girls. It’s usually given by parents to their kids and to any unmarried guests during Chinese New Year. At four, Little Miss was thrilled with the two dollar bills she found inside the packet, but she was more taken by the shiny envelope itself.

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I wondered at what age she would start to focus more on the money inside, because I remember the competition I had with my own cousins, “I’ve got more money than you!” No one cared about the prettiest hung pao. Thumper tore her hung pao into pieces and would have done the same with the money had we not wrestled it away from her.

Because we had a nice dinner planned, I decided against an elaborate lunch. (That’s also a nicer way of saying I didn’t put any thought on it. At all.) I was glad to find some leftover brown rice and eggs in the fridge as well as Chinese sausage and peas in the freezer so I was able to whip up some fried rice, although brown rice doesn’t exactly scream authentic. But hey, it’s Chinese sausage. 

Still, I did salivate at the pictures of the feasts that my Chinese friends posted on Facebook, making my measly bowl of fried brown rice seem woefully inadequate.


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As if my lack of preparation wasn’t evident enough in my too-simple meals, I forgot where I kept the festive paper lanterns from last year, and we didn’t purchase any traditional garb for my girls. To add insult to injury, we skipped the lunar new year aesthetics and jumped right into Valentine’s!

Making a banner for each new season or holiday is becoming a tradition in our family. When Thumper napped, Little Miss and I started on our Valentine’s project. It felt weird, like I was cheating on Chinese New Year, decorating for a Hallmark holiday when the real one, the one I looked forward to and enjoyed as a child, went unmarked in our house.


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The project took Little Miss and I about 90 minutes. Then it was time for her to rest, while her sister continued her nap, and I managed to squeeze in a run. It was my first five-miler after my injury, and it. felt. great.

It was a little past 2pm when I hit the pavement, and on my run I thought about what I would’ve been doing at that time 20 years ago and chuckled. I would’ve been comatose from a mid-day feast, gambling or playing in some corner of our bustling house with my cousins. And here I was today, running. On Chinese New Year. Who would’ve thought? Certainly not me.

We then drove 30 miles to a Malaysian restaurant in the suburbs and met some dear friends there who had never experienced “Yee Sang”, a traditional new year dish. Literally, the dish means raw fish, as it is served with chunks of, you guessed it, raw fish, on a bed of colorful ingredients like carrots, daikon, jicama, pomelo, preserved plums and ginger, as well as spices and dressing, all of which are mixed together with chopsticks by the people gathered around at the table yelling, “Low Sang!” 

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This tradition is best described on this site as it has better pictures and description, but here is an excerpt:

Part of the Low Sang/Yee Sang ritual is actually the noise and merry making that involves large chopsticks and people tossing and mixing the ingredients in the large, flat plate till the colors and raw fish are completely and thoroughly mixed. This is the one time, parents will not scold their children for playing with their food. In fact, the more you play with it and toss it, the better. Also, the louder you scream prosperity wishes the better. “Health Come!” “Money Come!” “Love and Good Fortune COME!”

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Well, we weren’t exactly loud, but our dish was undoubtedly messy. I hope that means some health and wealth will eventually slither our way.

After Yee Sang, we indulged in a hodgepodge of Malaysian dishes, except only one out of all of them were traditional new year dishes. Most were street foods I loved and wanted to share with my friends who were kind enough to make that trek with their own two kids to celebrate with us that night. It was the closest approximation to the feeling of family and feasting that I grew up with, and for that, I was truly grateful.

At the end of the evening, we left with fortune cookies in hand and opened them on our long drive home as a way to distract the girls. I read each person’s fortune aloud - Thumper’s is at the very top, followed by mine, Little Miss’ and My Guy’s.

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I was intrigued by mine; I’ll just have to see what May 10th brings. I loved the last two the best because family and travel are two really important things in my life. That it was My Guy’s fortune that said family will be highest priority warmed my heart, although it’s really not much of a fortune - it already seems that way.

These fortunes seemed like a perfect way to end our celebration. On a day that was so hit-or-miss in my attempt at injecting authenticity and tradition, it felt good to end on a high note. Then I remembered that fortune cookies never existed in my childhood.

It’s purely an American phenomenon.

* * *

What is your favorite childhood holiday celebration? Why is it your favorite? Do you celebrate it the same way you remember it?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

You have to try this!

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I don’t know about you, but 80 percent of my time involves food. It’s no secret that I love to cook, and I love to eat, but that’s not why it monopolizes my day. As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a lot of my time planning, prepping, and cooking meals, followed by the cleaning afterwards. Because my family eats at least five times a day (three meals, two snacks), there’s always food to make, which means there’s always a kitchen to clean. See how that works?

Therefore, with five meals to think of (well, four, really, since My Guy takes care of breakfast every day), being efficient with snack time is important to me. I often cook from scratch (read: make a mess) during lunch and dinner, so I try to keep the chaos to a minimum at snack time with ready-to-serve foods from the pantry or fridge, like fruit, crackers, granola bars, cheese, or yogurt. I do occasionally make my own granola bars, smoothies, muffins or cookies to indulge my family, but for the most part, snack time is mommy-gets-out-of-kitchen-jail time.

However, keeping the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy items can be tricky. Have you seen the junk they have in the grocery stores? Even self-proclaimed “health foods” may have ingredients that I don’t necessarily want my kids to ingest, especially ones we can’t pronounce and sound more like science than nature.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a health food nut. I’m a follower of the Golden Mean philosophy, which means I’m okay with all things in moderation, so yes, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and even (dare I say it?) McDonald’s are never off limits, but they’re definitely limited.

When it comes to feeding my kids, I’m a fan of natural ingredients that also taste good (unlike health food that taste health-food-y, know what I mean?). That’s why, when Chobani (the Greek yogurt people) asked me to sample their new line of yogurt products, I was thrilled because they’re all about natural.


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What made me even happier was what arrived in the package. Chobani Champions, yogurt in a tube, for the kids, and Chobani Bite, a 100-calorie snack for adults and kids alike. Well, except for the coffee-flavored ones - that’s all mine. (Woot!).

If your kids are older, like my four-year-old Little Miss, the tube is ideal as on-the-go snack, but for 20-month-old Thumper, it’s a disaster. She likes eating on her own, so there was no wrestling the tube from her when the yogurt oozed onto her dress, the table, the chair, the floor…you get the picture. But we came up with the idea to freeze the tube and voila! Crisis averted. Not only was it relatively mess-free, it also soothed a teething toddler’s gums. High five, clever brains!

I would have pictures of my girls enjoying their Chobani Champions tubes except they finished them all before I even had a plan for this post. I suppose that’s a testament to the product.


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As for Chobani Bite, I cannot tell you how happy I am that I don’t have to share my Coffee with Dark Chocolate one because it. is. delicious. For a coffee fanatic who would only allow myself no more than two cups a day, with none past 10am (because I’m also sensitive to caffeine), this was a great alternative for my late-afternoon or evening coffee cravings. Coffee and chocolate? Are you kidding me? And only 100 calories? Holy shit! I can’t wait to stock up once I find these in the stores.

Little Miss and Thumper, both chocoholics like me, eat the Raspberry with Dark Chocolate ones for dessert, and I have seriously thought of hiding the rest from them. Not because it’s bad for them, but because I want them for myself!

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The thing is, it’s healthy but it also satisfies our cravings for an indulgence. Instead of a big, fat high-calorie cookie, we have a Bite (ha!) and our sweet tooth doesn’t know any better. The chocolate-hungry lion in our belly is tamed, and my waistline has no complaints either. (Unless I eat five of those in one sitting, which is entirely possible. Ahem.)

Anyway, if you do see Chobani Bite or Chobani Champions at the store, I urge you to give it a try. This may be a product review - my first ever! - but honestly, for something this good, I’m calling this a public service announcement.

 

* * *

Because I’m always looking for new ideas, what’s your favorite healthy snack?



Full disclosure: Chobani sent me the products to try but the opinion here is all mine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A letter I never thought I would write

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my view on my way to yoga

Dear Winter,

When I first left tropical Malaysia to complete my studies here in the States, it was in August of 1994. Summer. Which was a good thing since it helped me transition from the heat I knew to the cold I didn’t.

That was the year I first encountered Fall, something I’ve only witnessed through movies. And wow! What a season. I still remember the fiery red tree on the university campus right outside the Parks and Recreation building that took my breath away, and I would go out of my way to see that tree every year in all its audacious magnificence.

Having also attended my first Fall Festival at a State Park that same year, which surrounded me with postcard-perfect colors, it was easy to fall in love with Autumn.

And then came you, dear winter. I experienced snow for the first time at age 19, and goodness gracious was I ill-prepared. On an invitation to my first ski trip, I wore my heavy black suede coat over only a t-shirt. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me - I’m from Malaysia!

Needless to say, I froze my butt off. I came down with bronchitis that same week and was sent home from the health center by the campus police because I was too weak and feverish to make the trip back on my own. I could only imagine what the neighbors thought when they saw me coming out from the back of the police car. I was not very happy with you then.

But I also knew of your inevitability with each passing year, and that’s when I realized I should master the art of layering. After a few icicles on my head, I’d also learned not to go outside in below freezing temps with wet hair. But that’s all about survival.

Over the years, however, I’ve gone from begrudgingly accepting you to embracing your presence in my life. You see, some time after I discovered the wonder of snow boots, I started seeing you with new eyes. It all started with the sound and feel of snow beneath my soles. There’s nothing like it.
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I remember being acutely aware of this new sensation for the first time when I was walking across campus by myself, and all I heard and felt was the muffled crunch of fresh, powdery snow under my boots. That familiar, rhythmic sound soon became a welcome partner in accompanying me in the often-quiet streets of winter. Now, every time I walk in the snow, I am brought back to that night, to that particular moment, over 17 years ago.

And that’s why, while my neighbors celebrated 60-degree weather that gave us thunderstorms in January, I complained, “This precipitation should’ve been snow!”

Spring and summer are easy to love. We come out of a long hibernation in the spring in anticipation of shedding our multiple layers. When we see the first blooms of grape hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils, the harbingers of a winter thaw, we get giddy. Because we know that beach and pool weather is around the corner.

But you. Winter. Well, it took me years to get excited about you. After all, I spent a lot of time commuting in the bitter cold and traveling on brown slush. There’s nothing like a city commute to quickly ruin the chastity and romance of a city blanketed in the purest white snow.

With no commute this year, it was easier to focus on the romantic parts of you: the beauty of snowfall, the joy in children jumping in the snow, the comfort of coming inside to hot cocoa for the kids and chai for the grown-ups, the indulgence of mulled wine by the fireplace on single-digit-temperature nights, especially when snuggled under a blanket with the love of your life.

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I make soups and stews a-plenty.


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I bake more eagerly, welcoming the wafting scent of baked goods and the added warmth from the oven. My girls frolic in pink footie pajamas all day, and they snuggle under the covers to read.

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I also run. The temperature registered a chilly 9 degrees (that’s -21 Celcius for my Malaysian blood) last Friday, but the sun was shining, and that’s all I needed. Feeling the sun on my face while running is one of my new favorite zen moments. So I added an extra layer (see? I learned!) and went outside that afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an easy run, but I loved being out there all the same. I’ve run in rain, hail, snow, and single-digit temperatures this year, and I do it because it feels good. Because of the enormous satisfaction I get at the end of the run, knowing I did it.

And I am so glad I did, because when I get home to little girls yelling a welcoming (and sometimes deafening), “Mommy! Mommy!”, a guy who high-five’s my progress, and a long, hot shower, I am literally soaking with gratitude. For the warmth of my home, for the support of my family, for the strength of my body, and for the time I had to myself.

It feels great to finally be able to welcome each season with open arms and look forward to the snow as much as I do the beach. I loathe bundling all of us up to go outside because it takes forever to get all the layers and accessories on, but at the same time, it’s worth it. Just like this past weekend, when we bundled up to go sledding.

It’s a first for 20-month-old Thumper. She was dressed in Little Miss’ old snowsuit, and she slid down a bunny hill all by herself with the biggest smile and a gleeful, “Whee!” that culminated in a “More peas!” (please) at the end. Little Miss didn’t hesitate to go down the hill by herself either, and the girls would take turns riding on one sled with their daddy too.


SledCollage

It was ridiculously cold, but when you have two giddy little kids begging for more, you don’t think about your frozen appendages. You just go go go until they’re ready to stop.  Then you come home and nestle into the nooks of your home, of each other, and melt into the moment. That’s the thing about you isn’t it? You know just how to draw people closer together.

And that’s why, when My Guy and I discuss our next possible place to live, I cannot fathom a place without the four seasons. Yes, I know many could do without you, but not me. I need all four.

It’s funny what time does to a person. A girl from the tropics longing for snow - who knew? It took me many years to fall in love with you, Winter, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Always,
Justine

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